It’s summertime!! This means a lot of things. For one, it means school is out and I can write more articles here BUT it also means it’s time for the most prestigious annual Board and Card Game Award! Hooray!
I’m not a Board Game Geek like you, why should I care? Good question! It’s obviously not even an American award, how could it possibly even matter, right? Well, as I’ve attempted to make known here, the Germans make some top notch games that appeal to all age groups, skill levels, and level of interest. Plus, Germany is a bit more serious about this industry than here across the pond. (this means that their shelves have a lot more than Monopoly, Risk, a few party games and the latest movie slapped ontoÂ a Scene-It) They don’t usually include all the cool Ameritrash games we make over here but it’s ok. We can take and enjoy what we get from them. There’s also a Kinderspiel des Jahres (Game of the Year for Kids), but I’ve only played one of those (and it’s awesome!)
The biggest reason why the casual Kulturblog browser might be interested in the Spiel des Jahres nominees is that ALL winners are geared towards interest and enjoyment of the wider populous and not specifically towards the gaming community. Here I’d like to look at some winners of the past (a complete list is here) to help familiarize you with a few you might consider trying as well as in anticipation of the soon to be crowned winner of 2010 on June 28th.
Settlers of Catan (1995)
Easily the most well known of the winners here in the States.Â Players build roads, settlements and cities to try and become dominant over Catan’s resources, which are acquired through the roll of a die (as well as trading) and score the necessary 10 victory points to win. Personally, I don’t care much for it at all. However, because of its widespread appeal and easy to learn mechanics, I’m in favor of its continued popularity as a means of introducing euro style gaming and the wider board gaming fun that is available to more non-gamers. A gateway game, if you will!
Ticket to Ride (2004)
Probably the next most popular title, Ticket to Ride is extraordinarily simple and easy to learn, yet can have intense strategic decisions every turn. Collect sets of colored train cards to be used in claiming rail routes across the United States, acquiring victory points for doing so while at the same time attempting to fulfill specific multiple route “tickets” for further victory points. Another premiere gateway game that children and adults can learn quickly and enjoy together over and over again. I like this one ok and will play it with non-gamers, again mostly for its popularity and use to introduce friends to the fun of board games. Trains seem to have a mysterious fascination attached to them too that captures many people’s attention for some reason. (You’d be surprised how many train games there are)
One of the more complex winners, Tikal is an exploration game. Each turn your workers uncover more jungle and the treasures and layers of temple that lie therein. Workers do a variety of actions using “action points” of which only so many are allotted each turn. Points are scored by holding onto treasures and temples during scoring phases. More points are scores depending on majority control of temples, temple height and treasure combination. Although prone to analysis paralysis (of which I am often afflicted with, though have made great progress over the years) and having never yet won this game, I very much enjoy every facet of it. You want to truly challenge your friends and/or family, here is a great way to do so.
Last year’s winner is a bit different than most other winners. It is much like popular collectible card games (CCGs) such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon. Players work through their personal deck of cards, attempting to build them so that certain cards come out on certain turns in certain ways to be most effective towards scoring victory in the end. The difference is everyone starts with an identical, small deck. They build their deck from cards that can be “purchased” from an available market in the middle of the playing area. 10 of 25 available cards are used in any given game as available in the market, which creates immense variety in play from one game to the next. The great thing about Dominion is a game can take 15-20 minutes to play yet have all the strategy and tactical decisions of much longer games. Plus, ya know. It makes you feel like you’re really the lord of a dominion and use all sort of tricks and trades to increase your realm! M’lord!
Others that I can highly recommend either by my own playing experience or that of others include Carcassonne, Liar’s Dice, Alhambra, Scotland Yard, El Grande, Elfenland, Zooloretto, Thurn and Taxis and Niagara
Like I said above, all Spiel des Jahres winners are fairly easy to learn and are great to play with just about anyone, gamer or non-gamer alike. So instead of paying $8-$15 a person to go watch a summer blockbuster for all of 2 hours, go spend $25-$40 on a game you can play over and over again with friends and family for years to come!
As always, all photos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com